Distilling Principles


2012     Sweeney, R. ‘Distilling Principles – an investigation into the role of consciousness in Butoh training’ in Theatre Dance and Performance Training Vol. 3 Issue 1, March 2012 ISSN: 1944-3827


Abstract: This essay provides a personal and critical approach to the Japanese contemporary performance expression of butoh through an investigation of the role of physical consciousness in contemporary performance training.

A critical analysis of butoh will be further contextualised within western contemporary physical performance training approaches, to expand upon certain avant-garde and postmodern developments of the late 1960s in dance, which can be seen to have effected a shift away from dance for production purposes towards solo research inquiry and political performance expression.

Butoh is presented here as a performing entity containing its own existential movement aesthetic as well as reflecting social, political and cultural debates which surround the body in performance.  In aligning butoh to certain initiatives within contemporary western dance theatre pedagogy, I consider the shift from a range of contemporary form-based movement techniques which can be copied and accurately replicated in the body of the dance student, towards a conscious expression of movement that is cultivated out of a dialogue existing between internalised sensibilities and externalised movement forms.

In comparing my own performance training experiences in Decroux Mime technique and contemporary dance with those in butoh, this paper aims to locate the relationship between physical and aesthetic consciousness in the interface between butoh training and performance practice.



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Decroux Mime technique... Butoh... physical consciousness... anatomical imagery...